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One of a group of 16 annotated pen and ink drawings of equestrian knights from a so-called Tournament Book dated to the early 15th century to be sold at Sotheby’s.

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Christie’s, on the other hand, has moved its Old Master paintings sales to the spring for the past few years, limiting its New Year input to drawings only on January 28.

Pictured here are a couple of highlights from the drawings sales.

This is also the time for buyers to take in the selling shows of paintings, drawings, watercolours and sculpture put on around Manhattan’s galleries by 25 international dealers participating in Master Drawings New York, running from January 25-February 1.

Knightly parade

The potential highlight of the Old Master drawings auctions in the Big Apple this month will be Andrea Mantegna’s preparatory study for one of his famous series of paintings of The Triumph of Caesar, now in Hampton Court, which is to be offered by Sotheby’s on January 29.

But plenty of other rare and unusual offerings feature in the 127-lot sale. One of them is a group of 16 inscribed pen and ink drawings of equestrian knights from a so-called tournament book dated to the early 15th century.

The subject of these drawings relates to the cult for all things associated with knights that sprang up in the Germanic regions in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

This is especially associated with the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. To glorify his own image and reputation he commissioned two monumental series of images of the Triumphal Procession of Maximilian I, one painted on parchment, the other in a set of engravings by all the leading artists of the period. The emperor also held tournaments and jousts at his court and commissioned a literary re-enactment of his prowess which included an illuminated manuscript or tournament book now in the Albertina, Vienna.

Sotheby’s sheets are drawn in pen and ink with watercolour and gouache highlights. They also appear to have been formed as part of a tournament book and to be interpretations of motifs in the Maximilian engravings series.

They are numbered 1-16 and the first and last images, one of which is shown here, appear to depict a master of ceremonies. The ensemble has been attributed to the workshop of Hans Burgkmair, chief designer of the engravings, and dated to the early 1530s.

The drawings have sustained some damage but are now laid down on the pages of a later album. The group has a provenance to the Princes of Liechtenstein with their bookplate, to José Eduardo Pisani Burnay of Lisbon and a private Swiss collection. The estimate in Sotheby’s sale is $250,000-350,000.

Late Tiepolo

One of the highlights of Christie’s Old Master drawings sale is a red and white chalk sheet of three studies of a donkey.

It is part of a small group of late preparatory studies by the Italian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770) which were executed in the last decade of his life when he was in Spain. These studies have been linked by experts to a suite of late canvases depicting The Flight into Egypt that he painted in Madrid.

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Three studies of a donkey by the Italian artist Giambattista Tiepoloon offer at Christie’s.

The 12¼ x 18¾in (31 x 48 cm) drawing may have been acquired from the artist’s studio by Armand Francois Louis de Mestral de Saint Saphorin (1738-1805), passing down by descent, then to Dr Edouard de Cérenville (1875-1968) in Lausanne; Rudolf J Heinemann of Lausanne and New York by 1916-17, then Mathias Komor and the collection of Brooke Astor, passing by descent to the vendor.

The drawing has an estimate of $250,000-350,000 in Christie’s sale on January 28.

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